Green Growth 50: Learning From Companies Boosting Profits While Cutting Emissions

More companies are investing in renewable energy to power their operations and offset their carbon emissions...Getty Images

EBay at its very core pioneered the circular economy — of finding new homes for treasures that might otherwise have ended up at the dump. “Avoiding items going into a landfill is very important to our customers,” says Steve Priest, CFO of eBay. “Driving the circular economy is part of everything we do.” But finding new shelves for Beanie Babies is just a small component in eBay’s sustainability efforts, which prioritize slashing greenhouse gas emissions.

In eBay’s case, these are mostly tied to electricity used to power vast data centers. Since 2017 eBay has cut its carbon emissions by 29% to 88,000 tons per year. The e-commerce giant became carbon neutral this year, and is aiming to achieve a 100% renewable electricity supply for all its offices and data centers by 2025.

This goal might actually be attainable in the next few years as eBay’s biggest clean energy projects yet come online. The White Mesa Wind Project in Texas (a joint venture with Apple, Sprint and Samsung) began operating this year, producing 75 peak megawatts for the four companies, enough to power 20,000 homes.

Meanwhile the Ventress Solar Project in Louisiana, a virtual purchase power agreement between eBay, McDonalds and BP’s Lightsource division, will generate 345 MW. “We collaborate with our tech peers when some sustainability issues come up, where banding together makes more sense,” says eBay’s chief sustainability officer Renee Morin.

Such efforts have earned eBay the no. 11 spot on our inaugural Forbes Green Growth 50 list. Using emissions data from Sustainalytics and financial data from FactSet Research Systems, we honed in on U.S. companies with market caps greater than $5 billion, that started with more than 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions in 2017, and have since successfully reduced their emissions while simultaneously growing profitability (as measured by an absolute increase in net income or operating income from 2017-2020).

Going in, we figured these criteria would produce a list of more than 100 companies. But green growth is harder than it looks — both Weyerhaeuser and Edison International, ranking no. 21 and no. 10 on our list, grew earnings less than 2% since 2017.

Is there a connection between cutting carbon emissions and boosting earnings? eBay’s Priest thinks we’ve reached the point where companies that don’t care about green will find it nearly impossible to deliver growth. “Customers want to be associated with corporations that take their environmental responsibilities very seriously. Those that do will continue to drive loyalty from their customer base.”

This is a strategic emphasis echoed by Stephan Tanda, CEO of Aptar, which took the no. 1 spot on the Green Growth 50. Aptar makes myriad drug delivery systems and dispensing products for consumer goods, especially foods and cosmetics. “We look at everything we do through a sustainability lens.” Most of Aptar’s facilities in Europe are already certified landfill free. By the end of the year Aptar is looking to achieve “80% disposal avoidance.”

It’s a business that involves reconciling contradictions — most of their products are plastic, which he says actually has a pretty low carbon footprint relative to alternative containers. A new Aptar product is a “monomaterial” lotion pump with no metal parts, entirely recyclable.

Consumer demand for such new products is arguably more impactful than the kind of government policy circus on display at the recent COP26 meetings in Glasgow, Scotland.

“Governments don’t impact what we do that much. Consumers and patients and customers demand what we do,” says Tanda. They will pay for the carbon transition because it is what they want. Listening to the consumers is how Tanda aims to “future proof our business.”

That approach has worked for electricity giant AES, which landed no. 15 on the Green Growth 50 list after reducing emissions by 22%, replacing coal-fired power plants with wind, solar and batteries — “a winning combination that can decarbonize 90% of the grid,” says Chris Shelton, president of AES Next. Because the costs of renewables kept going down, they were able to shift customers over under a “green, blend and extend” program.

AES also operates a kind of inhouse venture capital operation. Its Fluence utility-scale battery joint venture with Siemens recently went public and now sports a $6 billion market cap — the company behind some of the biggest battery installations in the world.

There used to be a large group of companies “in denial” about mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. “That group is vanishing fast,” with companies moving over to the “bargaining” group, where they want to know the minimum they have to do to get by and keep activists off their back — that’s the insight of Chris Romer, cofounder of Project Canary, which installs laser-based sensors at industrial sites to monitor methane leakages.

The landmark ESG moment, he says, was last year’s ExxonMobil annual meeting, where shareholders voted in more green-friendly board members.  There’s no going back. Romer says manufacturers can already earn multiples of their monitoring and certification costs by selling “green” products at a premium.

Even on the Green Growth 50, some companies are less enthusiastic than others. Nicotine giant Altria for example, positioned at no. 35 on our list, seems to be doing just enough, having cut emissions by 10% in the studied time period. But according to its most recent sustainability report, Altria’s renewable energy use is just 2.3% of its total, a surprisingly meager ratio.

Altria also demonstrates how hard it can be to stick to a well intentioned program. The company was making great strides toward reducing the amount of waste it was sending to the landfill. In 2018 it nearly hit its 21 million pounds goal. But 2019 wrecked the trend, when Altria delivered 87 million tons to landfill — mostly rubble from a headquarters renovation. Their next challenge: reducing litter from cigarette butts.

Stronger performers included Eli Lilly, which ranked eighth on our list after the pharmaceutical company swapped out old light bulbs for LEDs at three plants, saving 330 mwh per year. And Bristol Myers Squibb, which heats its Munich, Germany office building with 100% geothermal energy, found itself at no. 13. Church & Dwight, parent company of Arm & Hammer, has meanwhile placed third on the list, having achieved its goals of no more PVC in packaging, and offsets carbon emissions by planting millions of trees in the Mississippi River Valley.

I’m an assistant editor based in New York covering money and markets for Forbes. In the past, I covered minority communities for the Boston Business Journal

Christopher Helman

Tracking energy innovators from Houston, Texas. Forbes reporter since 1999.

Source: Green Growth 50: Learning From Companies Boosting Profits While Cutting Emissions

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Opinion: If We Want To Solve Climate Change, Businesses Need To Invest In Our Planet 

Kathleen Rogers is President of EARTHDAY.ORG, a global year-round policy and activist organization with programs around the world. She has been at the vanguard of developing campaigns focused on expanding and diversifying the environmental movement. The views expressed in this commentary are her own.

(CNN)Environmentalists’ traditional role is to hold governments and corporations accountable and to inform, motivate and engage the broader public of the dangers posed by government inaction or corporate malfeasance. And our relationships with both government and business have often been uneasy.

On the government side, pro-environment leaders come and go. Some have passed forward leaning environmental laws and regulations, others have reversed this progress. Environmentalists have brought innumerable lawsuits against governments for their failure to uphold their own laws yet often we work cooperatively with governments and legislatures to pass critical legislation and regulatory action.

On the other hand, environmentalists and corporations have often been adversaries. In the five-plus decades since the first Earth Day, the global environmental community has filed tens of thousands of lawsuits against corporations and corporations have sued back to block environmental regulations.

And if they aren’t actively blocking environmental laws and regulations, corporations are lobbying to prevent those laws from being passed in the first place. In the United States alone, more than $2 billion was spent on lobbying climate change legislation between 2000 to 2016, according to one analysis, outspending environmentalists by 10 to 1.

Yet compromises have often been possible, and environmentalists also work collaboratively with both corporations and governments to transform industries where there are mutual environmental and economic benefits such as the transformation of the lighting industry to LEDs, supporting renewable energy incentives, and forest certification standards.

Overall, that ebb and flow of the “wins” by governments, environmentalists, and corporations has led to a two steps forward, one step back process for decades, and overall progress on solving or reducing environmental damage and risk has been glacial.

In the meantime, over 1 million species are at risk of extinction, plastics are in our bloodstream, oceans, and food, and chemical toxins still plague the planet. Now climate change has dramatically altered this back and forth and solving the world’s largest environmental disaster has become an imperative, requiring a radical new strategy.

Simply put, it is going to take a lot more than governments, environmentalists, and individuals can provide to solve the climate problem. After decades of treating business leaders as the enemy (and often rightly so), many environmentalists have come to the realization that if we want to save the planet, we cannot do it without them.

“The largest market in the history of the world”

The notion that businesses, innovators, and investors might play a larger role than governments was on full display at the recent Glasgow COP climate summit. Instead of stepped-up ambition to solve climate, most countries did nothing, even stepping backwards.

Environmentalists lobbied vigorously to no avail and if we had all been honest, a sense of despair was growing. On the corporate side, however, there was palpable enthusiasm around deal making, new technologies, and opportunities to make money.

Recently, more than 450 companies with more than $130 trillion in assets, more than the global GDP, pledged deep investments in a net zero transition. US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry described it “the creation of the largest market in the history of the world,” bigger than the industrial revolution. And bankers and investors are saying the same thing.

How do we invest in our planet?

First, governments have long taken the lead in research and development and every economic revolution since the 1800s witnessed massive government investment in technology. Unfortunately, government investments in environmental and climate research, subsidies, and incentives have ebbed and flowed depending on who’s in charge.

Governments must invest, build infrastructure for the transition to renewables and the green economy in general, and regulators must provide some certainty in the marketplace, along with carrots (subsidies and incentives) and sticks (ending fossil fuel subsidies and requiring disclosures from all businesses).

Second, with this extraordinary funding, businesses could create extraordinary chaos and damage. They must agree to complete transparency on their environmental and climate impacts and without the phony net-zero claims.

Many major global companies have chosen to obfuscate and overstate the reality of their net zero promises, undercutting their credibility with both governments and environmentalists. And while we are waiting for national and international bodies to finalize climate risks and impacts’ requirements, more companies must choose to follow a net positive for climate and nature even if profits are impacted.

Environmentalists must acknowledge that as the frenzy of green investment accelerates, we must be better financed to expand our watchdog role, while also keeping accountable those who hide behind greenwashed smokescreens. We must partner with governments and business to build a reliable green consumer movement.

And lastly, given there is ample opportunity to produce future environmental disasters as we redesign the planet — and more likely than not at the expense of the Global South and its very valuable green tech resources — equity and justice have to become a central part of the mission for all three players.

Even if all these steps are taken, proofing the planet against climate change and other environmental woes will be a long and expensive journey that will require investments and new ways of thinking from all sides. Unless all the planet’s stakeholders change their behavior, the causes of climate change will further entrench themselves into the world economy, increasing scarcity, draining profits, and cutting job prospects. That is a recipe for all of us to end up in the red.

By:

Source: Opinion: If we want to solve climate change, businesses need to invest in our planet  – CNN

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United Nations Environment Programme 2021Weart

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“Heat stored in the Earth system: where does the energy goNASA.

“The Causes of Climate ChangeACS.

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Is the Sun causing global warming?

The study of Earth as an integrated system

Hurricanes and Climate Change”.

Poleward expansion of tropical cyclone latitudes in warming climates

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The Rare Spots of Good News on Climate Change

The deadly consequences of climate change only grew clearer this year, as record-shattering heat waves, floods, and wildfires killed thousands and strained the limits of our disaster responders.

In the closing days of 2021, scientists warned that the eastern ledge of a Florida-size glacier is about to snap off of Antarctica and US legislators found they may have flubbed their best chance in a decade to enact sweeping climate policies.

But amid these stark signs, there were also indications that momentum is beginning to build behind climate action. Indeed, there’s good reason now to believe that the world could at least sidestep the worst dangers of global warming.

Princeton energy researcher Jesse Jenkins accurately, and colorfully, pinpointed the weird moment we’ve arrived at in a recent tweet: “We’re no longer totally f$%@ed. But we’re also far from totally unf$@%*ed!”

To be sure, the limited progress isn’t nearly enough. We’ve taken far too long to begin making real changes. World events and politics could still slow or reverse the trends. And we can’t allow a tiny bit of progress in the face of a generational challenge to ease the pressures for greater action.

But it’s worth highlighting and reflecting on the advances the world has made, because it demonstrates that it can be done—and could provide a template for achieving more.

Momentum

So what are the signs of progress amid the climate gloom?

The grimmest scenarios that many fretted about just a few years ago look increasingly unlikely. That includes the 4 or 5 °C of warming this century that I and others previously highlighted as a possibility.

1 (2)

The UN climate panel’s earlier high-end emissions scenario, known as RCP 8.5, had found that global temperatures could rise more than 5 °C by 2100. Those assumptions have been frequently included in studies assessing the risks of climate change, delivering the eye-catching top-end results often cited in the press. (Guilty.)

Some argue that it wasn’t all that plausible in the first place. And the scenario seems increasingly far-fetched given the rapid shift away from coal-fired power plants, initially to lower-emitting natural gas but increasingly toward carbon-free wind and solar.

Global emissions may have already flattened when taking into account recent revisions to land-use changes, meaning updated tallies of the forests, farmlands, and grasslands the world is gaining and losing.

Today, if you layer in all the climate policies already in place around the world, we’re now on track for 2.7 °C of warming this century as a middle estimate, according to Climate Action Tracker. (Similarly, the UN’s latest report found that the planet is likely to warm between 2.1 and 3.5 °C under its “intermediate” emissions scenario.)

If you assume that nations will meet their emissions pledges under the Paris agreement, including the new commitments timed around the recent UN summit in Glasgow, the figure goes down to 2.4 °C. And if every country pulls off its net-zero emissions targets by around the middle of the century, it drops to 1.8 °C.

Given the increasingly strict climate policies and the plummeting costs of solar and wind, we’re about to witness an absolute boom in renewables development. The International Energy Agency, well known for underestimating the growth of renewables in the past, now says that global capacity will rise more than 60% by 2026. At that point, solar, wind, hydroelectric dams, and other renewables facilities will rival the worldwide capacity of fossil-fuel and nuclear plants.

Sales of new electric vehicles, bumping along in the low single digits for years, are also taking off. They’ll reach around 5.6 million this year, leaping more than 80% over 2020 figures, as automakers release more models and governments enact increasingly aggressive policies, according to BloombergNEF.

Electric vehicles climbed from 2.8% of new sales in the first half of 2019 to 7% during the first half of 2021, with particularly large gains in China and Europe. Zero-emissions vehicles will make up nearly 30% of all new purchases by 2030, the research firm projects.

Progress

Meanwhile, there are plenty of signs of technological progress. Researchers and companies are figuring out ways to produce carbon-free steel and cement. Plant-based meat alternatives are getting tastier and more popular faster than anyone expected. Businesses are building increasingly large plants to suck carbon dioxide out of the air. Venture capital investments into climate and clean-tech startups have risen to levels never before seen, totaling more than $30 billion through the third quarter, according to PitchBook.

And here’s an important and counterintuitive finding: While dangerous, extreme weather events are becoming increasingly common or severe, the world seems to be getting a lot better at keeping people safer from them. The average number of deaths from natural disasters has generally dropped sharply in recent decades.

“We have better technologies to predict storms, wildfires, and floods; infrastructure to protect ourselves; and networks to cooperate and recover when a disaster does strike,” noted Hannah Ritchie, head of research at Our World of Data, in an recent Wired UK essay, citing her own research.

This provides additional hope that with the right investments into climate adaption measures like seawalls and community cooling centers, we’ll be able to manage some of the increased risks we’ll face. Rich nations that have emitted the most greenhouse gases, however, must provide financial assistance to help poor countries bolster their defenses.

A realistic baseline

Some folks have seized on these improving signs to argue that climate change isn’t going to be all that bad. That’s nonsense. The world is, by any measure, still dramatically underreacting to the rising risks.

A planet that’s nearly 3 °C hotter would be a far more dangerous and unpredictable place. Those temperatures threaten to wipe out coral reefs, sink major parts of our coastal cities and low-lying islands, and subject millions of people to far greater risks of extreme heat waves, droughts, famines, and floods.

In addition, we could still be underestimating how sensitive the atmosphere is to greenhouse gases, as well as the spiraling impacts of climate tipping points and the dangers that these higher temperatures bring. And there’s no guarantee that nations won’t backtrack on their policies and commitments amid economic shocks, conflicts, and other unpredictable events.

But to be sure, a 3 °C warmer world is a much more livable place than a 5 °C warmer one, and a far more promising starting line for getting to 2 °C.

“The point isn’t to say that that’s a good outcome,” says Zeke Hausfather, director of climate and energy at the Breakthrough Institute. “The point is, that’s the baseline we’re working with now. And it’s easier to imagine much more rapid declines from there.”

In some ways, it’s especially notable that the world has made this much progress without sweeping climate policies in many nations, and despite all the poisoned, partisan politics surrounding climate change.

The shifts to natural gas, then solar and wind, and increasingly EVs were all aided by government support, including loans, subsidies, and other policies that pushed the underlying technologies into the marketplace. And the business-driven scale-up process rapidly cut the costs of those technologies, helping them become ever more attractive.

Increasingly competitive and business-friendly clean alternatives promise to simplify the politics of further climate action. If more and more nations enact increasingly aggressive policies—carbon taxes, clean-energy standards, or far more funding for research and demonstration projects—we’ll drive down emissions ever faster.

The world isn’t ending

There are other reasons to take note of the modest progress we are making.

Progressive US politicians now casually repeat the claim that climate change is an “existential threat,” suggesting it will wipe out all of humanity. After a 2018 UN report noted that global warming could reach 1.5 °C between 2030 and 2052, climate activists and media outlets contorted that finding into versions of “We have 12 years to save the planet!”

If so, it would now be down to nine. But 1.5 °C isn’t some scientifically determined threshold of societal collapse. Though the world will miss that goal, it remains crucial to fight for every additional half-degree of warming beyond it, each of which brings steadily higher risks.

Meanwhile, climate research does not suggest that the 3 °C of warming we’re now roughly on target for would transform the entire planet into some uninhabitable hellscape.

So no, climate change is not an existential threat.

But that sentiment has certainly taken hold. Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Bath surveyed 10,000 young people, aged 16 to 25, in 10 countries to assess the levels of “climate anxiety.” More than half, 56%, agreed with the statement “Humanity is doomed.”

It’s standard stuff for politicians and activists to overstate dangers and demands, in the hopes of pushing toward some compromise solution. And the growing climate fears and the increasingly influential climate activist movement have undoubtedly put greater pressures on politicians and business to take these issues more seriously, helping to drive some the policy changes we’ve seen. They deserve real credit for that.

But insisting that the world is at the edge of collapse, when it’s not, is a terrible message for young people and carries some real risks as well. It clearly undermines credibility. It could lead some people to simply lose hope. And it could compel others to demand extreme and often counterproductive responses.

“It’s time to stop telling our children that they’re going to die from climate change,” Ritchie wrote. “It’s not only cruel, it might actually make it more likely to come true.”

When people don’t see a “reasonable path forward,” they begin to rationalize unreasonable ones.

Among those I hear with surprising frequency: We must shut down all fossil-fuel infrastructure, and end oil and gas extraction now. We must fix everything with today’s technologies and reject the “predatory delay” tactic of continued investment in clean-energy innovation. We have to halt consumption, construction, and economic development. Or even: We must smash the global capitalist system that caused all the problems!

Balancing the trade-offs

None of that strikes me as somehow more politically feasible than fixing our energy systems.

We do have to shut down fossil-fuel plants, replace vehicles, and switch to new methods of producing food, cement, steel, and other goods—and relatively quickly. But we have to do it by developing alternatives that don’t pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

If we adjust the goalpost back to 2 °C, which is regrettable but only realistic at this point, we have several decades yet to carry out the transformation required. Under a modest emissions scenario, the world won’t exceed that threshold until around 2052 as a middle estimate, Hausfather’s analysis of latest UN climate report suggests.

What we can’t do is just shut down the infrastructure that drives the global economy—not without massive damage to jobs, food, health care, and safety. We’d sacrifice the economic resources we need to develop a more sustainable economy, as well as to make our communities more resilient to the coming climate dangers.

Those in rich countries, especially, have no business telling poor countries that they must halt development, perpetually locking billions of people in economic and energy poverty.

If we’re worried about climate change because of the suffering it will impose on people, then we have to care about the human trade-offs entailed in how we address it as well. Weighting those properly requires dealing honestly what with the science does and doesn’t say, recognizing the limited progress we are making, and not resorting to hyperbole simply because we think it will spur the actions we hope to see.

It’s a cruel and dangerous fantasy that we’ll ever halt climate change by counting on or forcing people to live impoverished lives, forgoing food, medicine, heating, or air conditioning in an increasingly erratic and menacing world.

We need more activist pressure and more aggressive climate policies to confront the threats of climate change. But ultimately, we must invent and build our way out of the problem. And the rare bright spot of good news is that we’re beginning to see evidence that we can.

I am the senior editor for energy at MIT Technology Review. I’m focused on renewable energy and the use of technology to combat climate change. Previously, I was a senior director at the Verge, deputy managing editor at Recode, and columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle. When I’m not writing about energy and climate change, I’m often hiking with my dog or shooting video of California landscapes.

Source: The rare spots of good news on climate change | MIT Technology Review

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What The Outcome Of COP26 Means For The Fight Against Climate Change

British Columbia declared a state of emergency following record rainfall that resulted in widespread flooding of farms, landslides and the evacuation of residents. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

While addressing the 26th UN Climate Change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, during the final hours of the event, COP26 President Alok Sharma was overcome with emotion. China and India had just proposed a last-minute change to the final text of the agreement, known as the Glasgow Climate Pact, so that the call to “phase out” unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies was watered down to “phase down.”

Delegates from other countries, from Switzerland to Cuba, deplored the move, but ultimately adopted the text in the interest of time, as the conference was running more than 24 hours late by that point.

“I apologize for the way this process has unfolded and I am deeply sorry” said Sharma, who earlier in the week had told reporters he was sometimes called “No-drama Sharma.” He then added: “I also understand the disappointment, but, as you’ve noted, it is vital we protect this package,” his voice quivering towards the end of the sentence.

Specific mentions of fossil fuels had eluded previous UN climate agreements, and the Glasgow Climate Pact was meant to mark a landmark achievement despite two rounds of revision diluting and complicating the simple “phase out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies” sentence featured in the document’s first draft. Sharma and the U.K. government had a clear goal for COP26—to keep the spirit of 1.5 alive, a reference to COP21’s milestone Paris agreement, which called for global action to prevent temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius, and preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius, above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

To do so, it’s crucial to reach net zero emissions by 2050—meaning that for every amount of greenhouse gas emissions, an equal number is removed from the atmosphere—and, to be on track to reach that goal, scientists think global emissions should be halved by 2030. Earlier this year, a report from the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicated that global temperatures have already risen by 1.1 degree Celsius on pre-industrial levels.

“We have kept 1.5 degrees alive. But, its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action,” Sharma said. It’s a statement that doesn’t hide the disappointment the conference organizers must have felt as the event that was dubbed the “most important COP since Paris” just couldn’t fully deliver on its ambition. COP26 was neither success nor failure—absolute concepts that don’t reflect the complexities of high-level international negotiations—but a mixed bag of progress on some issues, disappointment on others, and a whole lot of pledges.

COP26’s Key Agreements And Pledges

The U.K. Presidency had four key objectives summarized as “coal, cash, cars, and trees”—in other words, ending coal power generation (a pledge now endorsed by 46 countries with a deadline set at 2040), providing the long promised $100 billion annual support towards developing countries’ green transition (a goal that was meant to cover the period 2020-2025 but not materializing until 2023 at least, and whose future beyond 2025), supporting electric vehicles and a phase out of gasoline and diesel-powered motor vehicles by 2040, and reversing deforestation in an attempt to protect existing nature-based solutions to capturing emissions.

The bilateral agreement between the U.S. and China on climate change action, including a cut in methane emissions—the subject of a multilateral agreement produced at COP26 to which China refused to take part—was also a remarkable development.

Some of these agreements are imperfect—the one about deforestation, for instance, pledged to “halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030.” It appeared a success as it involved Brazil, home to the world’s largest rainforest who’s been losing trees at record pace this year, but Brazilian senators soon clarified that their commitment would only extend to illegal deforestation. Campaigners have long indicated that the line between legal and illegal deforestation in the country is often blurred due to amnesties affecting illegally deforested areas.

Others are deprived of key players. A campaign to phase out oil and gas in the next 30 years promoted by Denmark and Costa Rica, for instance, lacked the support of COP26’s host country, the U.K., which is considering the development of a new coal mine and an offshore oil field.

Pledges submitted by countries to reduce their emissions remain insufficient to achieve the 1.5 degrees Celsius target. The most optimistic scenario drafted by the International Energy Agency (IEA), in which all nations follow through with their pledges, puts the world on course for a 1.8 degrees Celsius increase in global temperatures by 2100. The non-profit group Climate Action Tracker confirmed the IEA calculation, but indicated that a more realistic outcome for those pledges is a 2.4 degrees temperature rise—and a 2.7 degrees on the basis of current policies.

A report this week by the Paris Reinforce consortium, which comprises 18 research institutions, adds nuance to those figures, finding that current policies put the world on course for between 2.3 to 2.9 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100, while climate pledges lead to warming of 2.2 to 2.7 degrees over the same period.

Some countries are already feeling the impact of rising global temperatures and several developing countries, some of which are already facing rising sea levels eating into their territories and extreme weather events devastating lives and livelihoods, branded a rise of 2 degrees Celsius in global temperatures as a “death sentence.” Developing countries and civil society campaigners were disappointed with the failure to create a robust mechanism to disburse financial aid towards loss and damage in the face of climate change.

Sir David King, chair of Climate Crisis Advisory Group (CCAG), an independent group of 15 experts from 11 countries that released their own assessment of COP26’s outcome this week, called the failure to reach an agreement on that front a “fundamental breach of trust.” He said in a press statement: “What we have at hand is a fundamental breach of trust between rich and poor nations, with catastrophic consequences for the world. Without a recalibration from developed nations on how they approach their relations with poorer countries, change at the scale and pace required to ensure global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is nigh on impossible.”

The Path Ahead

On a positive note, delegates were able to finalize a deal around carbon markets that was left unfinished in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, paving the way for building a system to price and trade carbon globally. COP26 also saw unprecedented commitments from the private sector to reaching net zero goals and supplying the trillions of dollars needed to fund the transition.

“All actors in the financial sector have stepped on board to redirect the standards on where investments go. It sends a signal,” Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told Forbes during COP26.

Another sign of progress Rockström witnessed in Glasgow is an overall agreement that limiting emissions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement is a must. “This is the first COP where we do not debate any longer the direction we’re moving at, we’re debating the speed,” he said.

It’s not just the speed—the way to achieve those emissions reduction remains under discussion. Nuclear power and hydrogen—which can be “green” when produced via renewable energy, but is dubbed “blue” if derived from fossil fuels—were offered big platforms at COP26 in the form of pavilions and participation at keynote speeches and panel sessions, more so than producers of solar and wind energy.

Forms of transportation that don’t traditionally feature fuel engine combustion, such as trains or bicycles, weren’t even considered in the program, which instead focused on electric vehicles, airplanes, and shipping—sectors that present huge decarbonization challenges, which nonetheless shouldn’t detract from discussing existing low-carbon modes of transportation. 

Overall, lacking from the discussions at COP26 was the understanding that reaching net zero emissions requires more than just a switch from one energy source to another, but a reinvention of current modes of production and consumption. This was noted by Guy Grainger, global head of sustainability services at real estate services company JLL, who would have liked more focus on the circular economy, at least in his sector. “The circular economy has got a huge role to play in the built environment, but [it] actually hasn’t been talked about enough yet. I’m hoping that that will come,” he told Forbes.

One of the few people who addressed the need for more radical change was fashion designer Stella McCartney. “Fast-fashion [brands] obviously need to reduce what they produce,” she told Forbes. She explained that she, too, has gone through the process of reducing her product range, adding: “I want to show my industry that you can have a business model in working in a cleaner, more sustainable way.”

COP26 is now over, but the mission to prevent the worst consequences of climate change continues. No doubt the issues that created disappointment in Glasgow will be discussed with even more urgency next November, at COP27 in Egypt.

I am an assistant editor based in London, from where I oversee coverage of sustainability and curate the Daily Dozen newsletter. I have worked as a reporter for Newsweek and PinkNews,

Source: What The Outcome Of COP26 Means For The Fight Against Climate Change

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How Are Developing Countries Spending Climate Financing Money?

Over the past decade, rich nations and private enterprises have raised at least $500 billion to help developing countries cope with climate change. This financing plan, hatched in 2009, was supposed to build to an annual mobilization of $100 billion by 2020, and was designed to offset the unfairness of climate change—of poor countries suffering because rich countries had already emitted their way to wealth.

Developed countries, as we’re finding out now, have missed that $100 billion target. Just as importantly, though, it turns out that no one—no individual, no government, no multilateral agency—knows precisely how all this climate funding is being spent, or even if it’s being spent at all. Even the best such database, maintained by OECD, is a broad-brush one and has many gaps—not least in the details of private financing. The very term “climate financing,” in fact, has often proved to be slippery and malleable, defined by parties according to their own need or convenience.

At the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, scheduled to end on Nov. 12, ever-bigger climate financing numbers are being proposed: $130 trillion from a private sector consortium, an annual $1 trillion demanded by India, an annual $1.3 trillion demanded by African nations. But without a way to track how this money is used, these larger numbers “feel like greenwashing,” said Liane Schalatek, associate director of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, a policy think tank headquartered in Berlin. “It isn’t just, ‘Tell me the number,’ it should also be, ‘Show me how the number is computed,’ otherwise it’s a fig leaf.”

Insofar as some funds are more important than others, these climate financing funds are among the most important quantities of money in the world; human civilization itself hinges on whether these funds are raised in full and spent well. The absence of a detailed, publicly available account of this financing, said Schalatek, risks all sorts of omissions: donors mislabelling their funding, or money being misspent, or an under-estimation of the true volume of money required. Which, in turn, risks leaving the world far less prepared for climate change than it needs to be.

How much money are countries raising to fight climate change?

In 2019, the last year for which the OECD has published full data, rich countries raised nearly $80 billion as part of their climate financing pledge. Most of this was either in the form of bilateral funds—loans or grants from one government to another—or multilateral public funds, whereby developed countries channeled their money through international banks or climate funds. The money is intended to help developing countries both mitigate the effects of climate change—including investing in cleaner energy sources—as well as adapt to a harsher climate.

                                           

The data available on these funds, Schalatek said, resembles an onion. At the core are projects for which the most details are available: those financed through multilateral agencies. Schalatek’s team tracks a portion of these, “covering the most important multilateral climate funds,” she said, “although we don’t know what fraction it is of the overall multilateral funding.” In the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung database, for instance, grants can be found:

  • from the Global Environment Facility, in 2014, of $2.78 million to Argentina to introduce biogas technologies into the national waste management program
  • from the Green Climate Fund, in 2019, of $9.68 million to Bangladesh to build plinths that raise the land of high-risk villages above any potential climate-related floods
  • from the Adaptation for Smallholder Agricultural Programme, in 2015, of $4.56 million to Liberia to improve the climate resilience of its cocoa and coffee crops

Moving outward through the other layers of the onion, though, the details get less granular, Schalatek said. “Lots of bilateral initiatives, for instance, don’t give you a project-by-project breakdown.” A report by the non-profit Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), analyzing climate financing initiatives in 2019 and 2020, found, for instance, that “finance for buildings with high energy and thermal insulation  performances—green buildings—is growing fast but lacks transparency.” Even many multilateral funding efforts can only be slotted into broad categories: agricultural development, for example, or disaster risk reduction. As a result, Schalatek said, “there’s less data accuracy, more guesswork.”

Are rich countries greenwashing their climate funding pledges?

Another source of doubt has to do with how rich countries label the money they’re disbursing. Under the OECD system, countries attach a so-called “Rio marker” to any funds they claim to be pledging under the climate assistance rubric. The marker can either be a “2,” to signal that the money’s main purpose is climate-related, or a “1,” to signal that a significant part of the money’s purpose is climate-related.

But Schalatek pointed out that no standards exist for what the term “significant” might mean. Each country merely decides this for itself. “That makes the ‘significant’ tag very, very fishy,” she said. “There’s a risk that countries will overuse the ‘significant’ marker and inflate the overall amount of money they’re giving. There has been a lot of mislabelling—or uplabelling, you could call it—going on.”

Indeed, a study of the OECD database reveals projects that sound like traditional forms of assistance but that have been described as climate-related. Finland, for instance, gave Ethiopia a grant of $4.47 million to develop its water supply and sanitation systems, and labeled the money with a “1.” But water aid projects have existed for decades, and it is arguable whether the purpose of this grant—at least as described in the OECD database—has “significant” relation to climate change.

Some examples are even more egregious. Baysa Naran, a senior analyst who co-authored the CPI report, pointed out that her team had to regularly leave out projects that were tagged as climate financing but that were nothing of the sort: “energy-efficient coal, for instance.”

At Glasgow, developing countries called for tighter definitions of climate financing, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is attempting to bring more transparency to the funding initiatives. There are so many undefined areas, Naran said. “Which sectors do you count for mitigation, and which for adaptation? Do you count loans, or should only the equivalents of grants be considered climate finance?

Some countries channel a lot of money through multilateral institutions, which then channel money to climate finance. In those situations, how do you account for each country’s contribution?”

Measuring what countries are ponying up thus becomes very tricky, Naran noted. “There’s no third party that reviews and audits and makes independent conclusions about this financing,” she said. “It’s going to be a very difficult topic to reach a united agreement on.”

Samanth Subramanian

By Samanth Subramanian

Source: How are developing countries spending climate financing money? — Quartz

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